The five furry balls of fluff gambolling about in a small room in back of Ashcroft Pet Supplies are cute as can be; but as soon as a visitor enters their enclosure the kittens retreat to the safety of an enclosed round scratching post.
A grey kitten that has appointed itself their guardian lies in the entrance, its head the only part of it that is visible, and hisses in what would be a threatening manner if it was older. Given that the kitten is only eight weeks old, however, the gesture comes across as adorable rather than fierce. Amie Dow, the store’s owner, laughs.
“They’re not really that fierce, although when we first got them my hands were like pincushions,” she says. The five remaining kittens are all that is left of the 11 kittens that were trapped in one night not long ago, from three separate litters. Six of them have already gone to good homes, with two departing the day The Journal dropped by the shop. Their new owner feels they’ll be just the thing to control the mice in his 200-year-old ranch house.
The kittens were trapped near the river in Ashcroft, and brought to the shop. Dow says that she’s trying to find homes for all of them, and that even though they were born wild, the kittens will socialize once they are in a home setting.
“They’ll probably be shy for about a week, but then they’ll socialize with the humans who are with them,” she explains.
Adult feral cats are a different matter, however. Ashcroft resident Cami Lindseth has been trapping feral cats in Ashcroft since the 1990s, and will get them spayed or neutered at her own cost. Most of the time the cats are then returned to the wild, where at least they will not be reproducing.
“Generally speaking, adult feral cats are too wild to be adopted,” she says. “They make good barn cats, though.”
It’s hard to get the Kamloops SPCA to accept cats now, she adds; harder than it used to be. “They don’t want them or can’t handle them.”
Dow is working to become a non-profit rescue centre for cats in the area, but in the meantime is doing what she can to shelter and re-house kittens and some of the adult cats. She currently has one adult female in the shop, whose kittens were some of the 11 she recently took in.
She stresses that she only takes in kittens born in the wild: “We’re not a kitten drop-off centre.” There is also a limit to how many she can house at one time, and she admits that 11 was probably as many as she can handle at one time.
Ashcroft Pet Supply owner Amie Dow and friend. Photo by Wendy Coomber.
She spent 20 years working in veterinary clinics as a technician, and says that animal nutrition is her specialty area. She lived in Ashcroft eight years ago, and last September opened Ashcroft Pet Supplies when she saw a need for a specialty pet food store in the area. “Most of my clientele are seniors, and some of them find it difficult to get into Kamloops for their specialty pet food, especially in winter.”
The kittens and cats that she takes in are treated for common illnesses prevalent in wild cat populations, such as worms and upper respiratory infections, as well as the feline AIDS virus. She stresses the importance of this, especially in cats that are going to be re-released into the wild after they have been spayed or neutered.
“The feral cats can spread infectious diseases to domesticated cats,” she explains. “Many domestic cats are not up to date with their vaccines or haven’t been vaccinated, and they mix with the feral cats.”
In addition to illness, the feral cats often fall victim to predators such as coyotes, eagles, and owls. Dow says that for that reason, cat owners should keep their pets indoors at night.
Lindseth says that the block in Ashcroft bordered by Brink, 3rd, Bancroft, and 4th has a large feral cat population, many of which are fed by locals and like the proximity to the river. “They have food and water there,” says Dow. “They’re living the good life by the river.”